NEW YORK: Healthcare companies most frequently rely on word of mouth, industry relationships and existing affiliations when choosing their marketing partners, new research has found.

Industry title Medical Marketing & Media joined with Guidemark Health to survey 181 executives – all director-level or above – across the pharma, biotech, device and diagnostics categories.

Some 63% of respondents "sourced" their marketing partners through recommendations from others, while 62% relied on industry relationships and 57% invited their current vendors to pitch.

Another 48% utilised a preferred-partner list. Consulting reference materials came next, recording 31%, ahead of tapping in-house procurement services with 27%.

When ranking target audiences in terms of importance, fully 93% of participants put physicians in the top three – and 62% made this group their main priority.

In discussing specific tactics to reach healthcare providers, an 86% majority of interviewees used digital. Websites, on 78%, were the most popular new-media tool, beating sales materials on 57%, social on 51%, ads on 50% and apps on 40%.

"The so-called digital doctor isn't just a figment of some pharma marketer's imagination," the study said, based on such findings.

Despite this, meetings and events were still employed by 80% of contributors to reach this cohort, while printed sales collateral logged 69% and sales reps posted 64%. Research, data and analytics yielded a score of 58%.

Elsewhere, a 56% majority of the panel included patients and consumers in their top three audiences, although just 15% afforded shoppers the lead billing on this metric.

Digital was used by 76% of operators for marketing to consumers, almost doubling the 40% registered by traditional advertising. Social media was deployed by 49%.

Breaking out overall budgets by channel, professional meetings and conferences claimed 13.7% of spend, trailed by sales reps on 13.3% and sales materials with 10.3%. Websites and microsites secured 8.8%, with paid-for traditional media ads on 7.4%.

Data sourced from Medical Marketing & Media; additional content by Warc staff